What Would Photographers Do If DSLRs Officially Get Discontinued?

What Would Photographers Do If DSLRs Officially Get Discontinued?

Let's just pretend for a moment that DSLRs are officially dead and we're left with nothing else, but mirrorless cameras and cell phones. What would that mean to photographers?

DSLR Apocalypse

With so many articles discussing and predicting the death of DSLRs and rise of mirrorless cameras, there are lots of debates in the comments sections. There are people who are happy about it. Others are totally against it. Without any bias, let's say it really happens and the conveyor line labeled "DSLR" finally stops and the lights of the large manufacturing hangar are turned off.

Stories of Old

In order to think of possible outcomes we can relate the situation to something we have already seen in the past. For example, the cease of production of certain types of classic film stock. What happened then? Well, that film stock was not available in the stores. Did that stop photographers? It did stop those who were relying on film stock for their business. For example small photo businesses had their income mostly from developing film. But these are labs, not photographers, you might say. That's true, but lots of them were sporting both disciplines and their businesses were supported by a stronger and a weaker leg. The stronger one was the tool. Such experienced some tremendous losses.

What happened to the real film photographers? Did that stop them from creating art? No. They just started using other tools. For some the transition was technically painful, to others the pain was emotional. Several decades later the tools got better and the modern complaints are "no two card slots," "doesn't shoot 4K," "it's only 25 megapixels," etc. Art didn't stop with the stopping of a conveyor line for a particular tool.

Some Will Be Doomed, Others Not

What will happen if DSLRs are no longer available? You will be predestined of failure if:

  • You are into the trade industry and you only sell DSLRs.
  • You are technically servicing only DSLRs.
  • All your money comes from investment in public stock on financial markets related solely to DSLRs.
  • You are a member of secret society who swore an oath and cursed yourself if you would ever have used anything else but a DSLR.

In case you are not any of those, you will simply have to change your tool for making your imagination a reality. You may not find the new gadget that attractive or perfect, but think about vintage artists who used wooden sticks with horse hair at the end, dipping them into a solution of crushed rocks and linseed oil to create masterpieces which we still admire today. Yes, I'm talking about oil painters. They did well. They still do well with the same kind of instruments.


Times change. Industry changes. Technology changes. A visual can be represented by lots of means today. The most important tool is your imagination. It should not be bound by the tools. If it is, try unshackling yourself as soon as possible. Don't worry about the gear markets unless you have financial benefit from them. Worry about art. Be an art-ist, not a tool-ist.

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Mark Wyatt's picture

You can buy used for the next 10-15 years. Many are and will go to mirrorless leaving a huge supply of used DSLRs on the market. There is very little that mirrorless can do that DSLR cannot and vice versa.

Adam Palmer's picture

Canon and Nikon make some pretty heavy duty cameras. Wouldn't be surprised if you could keep one running for a long time. I started in the 90's with a camera made in the 60s :) Of course now I just shoot whatever is the latest and greatest.

Rod Kestel's picture

My 7D Mk1 is going just fine after 10 years, twice around the clock.

SONAT YILMAZ's picture

My nikon d70s still works with no problems. 13 years old dslr. Only problem will be replacing the shutter in the future and I am sure someone other than nikon/canon will produce them to sell.

Julien Jarry's picture

I just got back from a weekend vacation to Quebec, Canada. It was the first time I was out in a tourist location like that in quite a long time and was blown away and completely aware of and by the sheer amount of tourists wielding DSLR cameras. 99 out of 100 cameras were DSLRs, I barely saw one Sony A7. In the real world DSLRs haven’t gone anywhere and I’m sick of articles like this especially after my trip where I got to see what’s really happening.

Mark Wyatt's picture

I just took a work trip to Quebec, but had a little walking around time with my mirrorless (Contax iia, analog mirrorless form 1953). https://www.flickr.com/photos/markjwyatt/albums/72157710017961022

Steven Magner's picture

Don’t visit tunnel view at Yosemite then, your jaw would drop

Michael Austin's picture

I don't mind that technology advances, and the mirrorless stuff is actually starting to mature nicely. But I have a ton invested in Canon DSLR stuff and L glass. How long until that wears out? I won't be "upgrading" to a mirrorless simply because of the investment in the DSLR ecosystem. When lenses get damaged, lost, dropped and camera bodies wear out, stolen, dropped, whatever... THEN I'll consider the big switch. Until then, I'm shooting what I have until it's dead! At the end of the day, can someone REALLY tell if it was shot on a DSLR/mirrorless? Not really. And around 30 megapixels is certainly adequate for what I shoot. Unless there is some earth-shattering development no one sees coming with mirrorless it's really a bit like cars - yeah, the new ones have all the hype but for simple economics I gotta drive what I got into the ground!

Mark Wyatt's picture

Mirroless vs. DSLR largely matters to people buying in today. I doubt for most people there is a strong incentive to change. I bought my first good digital camera last year, and decided mirrorless fit the bill for me (though I did consider one DSLR system). Were I already invested in DSLR, I likely would not have seen a reason to change.

Marcus Joyce's picture

I would strongly argue that canon has its "old" lenses at heart with the R mount(EF and efs). If you ever said glass is more important than the body then the R bodies are sure to delight.

They do take the old EF lenses and improve their performance greatly (or perhaps the software takes a ham fisted spray and pray like me and keeps stuff in focus)...

I only have positive words for canons mirrorless. EF lenses are very very useful and instead of replacement when they wear out with ef lenses you and I will hopefully still be alive(I'm 35) and canon will still be selling cameras

Kirk Darling's picture

My Canon DSLRs had reached the point of non-maintainability, so I replaced them with R bodies. But I haven't replaced any of my EF lenses--they work better than ever with the control ring adapter. yet, the lenses will also reach their points of non-maintainability one by one. I'll replace them all as their times run out.

Marcus Joyce's picture

I wanted full frame. I didn't always love my 7d mk ii. It's fast. It's mostly accurate. Eos r, full frame always accurate. Couldn't make that canon 50 1.4 focus on the 7d mk ii or the sigma 50 1.4. they are perfect now

Tony Clark's picture

No big deal, they are tools and if they need servicing there will be third party shops or replacements available for a few years. My EF L's will work for a long time even if I need an adapter to work with another system. If broke, my liability insurance will cover the damage. Trust me, the sky is not falling.

Rob Mitchell's picture

How many times is this DLSR dead thing going to be flogged?

Marcus Joyce's picture

Until it's.... Dead?

How do articles like get approved for posting? Write something artistic about photographing.

Johnny Rico's picture

well it's either this or PetaPixel +1 day around here anymore it seems

Johnny Rico's picture

"With so many articles discussing and predicting the death of DSLRs"

Ahh, yes the "educators" locked into their echo chamber

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

If you carefully look at the intent of the article it doesn't have anything to do wtih DSLRs, but any kind of camera that may eventually get discontinued, including mirrorless. The "DSLR" is used just for an example and because "DSLR" and "dead" seem to be trending keywords these days.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I guess you haven't read the article. "Trending" nowadays is something people constantly get reminded of or see around them. This can alter their behavior in certain ways. The article uses the trending buzz-topics today to get creatives to focus on art and not get distracted by gear that much. This is synthesis.

You can read the article for the rest.

Until DSLR stops shooting digital, I don't see it going anywhere anytime soon!

Marcus Joyce's picture

Don't worry Pentax is your friend they think mirrorless is a fad. You'll be sorted until they cease to make financial sense

Daris Fox's picture

The F-Stioppers will fold up shop, as they can't write more stupid articles proclaiming dSLRs are dead for clickbait. Just as the 'experts' was prognosticating the death of Medium Format when dSLRS heralded the digital age.

Bring out your dead, bring out your dead...

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

The article didn't predict the death of the DSLR. It asked what would photographers do if that happens. The exactly same article will be valid if you replace "DSLR" with "mirrorless" and vice versa. But I see the usage of the word "DSLR" triggered some people.

I'm also glad there are others who looked from a higher level seeing that it's just a tool just like mirrorless, medium format, film, etc.

Daris Fox's picture

No, it's an article about the death of dSLRs by proxy. So yeah, a pig dressed up with lipstick is still a pig. You're trying to dress it up as an article about the meta post-dSLR era unless we're talking about zombie cameras?

If you want to know what happens just learn from history, it'll give you the answers you need. Of course the goldfish mentality of modern society prefers things to be spoon fed to them. Hence why I raised the point about medium format.

I wish photographers stop this ideological pogrom over dSLRs to get clicks and impressums. I appreciate that mirrorless is the new shiny but a better article would be what comes after mirrorless and the death of the mirrorless (which is inevitable) as manufacturers try and move the consumer on to the next profit making platform, Mobile phones won't kill mirrorless per se they're hit the wall, and dual screen devices are likely to be next dice roll for better or worse.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I don't really know what will happen, because I'm not interested in gear that much. This is why the article is all hypothetical and I chose the DSLR as a scapegoat, because that's the "new hype," if I have to say it that way.

Other than that you may be right that mirrorless many not live long, but we will see. I, personally, don't care that much if I have to use a stick of horse hairs or a fancy gadget that is called DSLR, mirrorless, medium format, etc. And yes, phones won't kill bigger cameras. They will probably just shrink the non-professional part of the market, because phones are good enough for many non-professionals.

Same hand wriniging and nashing of teeth I heard back in 1999. Replace film with DSLR followed by demise and what oh what will we do. Sorry heard it before . Along with film, DSLR's will be around long after their "death" is proclaimed.

Serge Chabert's picture

I am safe, I use film slr cameras.😇

Mark Wyatt's picture

I am living the "When will rangefinders and TLRs die relative to the superior SLR" argument. Though I do have a digital mirrorless also (and SLRs).

Kirk Darling's picture

Back in 1959, how in the world were Nikon and Canon going to get photographers to give up their Leicas and Contaxes?

And how was that complex, trouble-prone Hasselblad with the black-out with every shutter release going to get fashion photographers to give up their Rollies?

Technology always changes, and people always gripe about it.

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